Luck – chance, fortune – can be either good or bad. You cannot control it. If the cards go in your favor, you have Good Luck. They could just as easily go against you: Bad Luck.
For every player in a poker hand who benefits from Good Luck, there usually are one or more who suffer Bad Luck. Here’s an interesting example I experienced the other night at the Great Heavenly Poker Room.
It was a lively $4-$8 limit hold’em game, with plenty of betting and raising. That’s not my preference, but since I was quite a bit behind it offered me the chance to catch up – if I got lucky.
A bit earlier, I had been the unhappy recipient of really Bad Luck – a Bad Beat. With pocket kings, I was betting all the way. On the turn, one rather poor player remained in the pot against me. Call him a PokerPigeon to use my co-columnist George “The Engineer’s” vernacular, or an “idiot” as Phil Hellmuth would scream.
He was calling all the way with 3-4 diamonds. One diamond fell on the flop, but nothing else that might help his hand – no possible straights or flushes, not even a pair. I bet on the flop; he called. What was he thinking? The only chance he had was to catch the “right” runner-runner to make a hand. Well, the turn gave him a fourth diamond. He checked to me; I made the bet, realizing my K-K was well ahead.
When Lady Luck frowns upon you, there is little you can do or say – as the King of diamonds fell on the river. His small flush smashed my beautiful set of Kings! A bitter loss.
Changing course: But luck works both ways. It can change course just like that! Snap your fingers. Who knows when or why! Shortly after, I looked down on 10-J spades in the hole, and called to see the flop, along with four or five other players. Only the Good Luck poker gods could dream up this flop. I could hardly believe my eyes: 7-hearts, 8-diamonds, 9-spades.
I had flopped a Jack-high straight! At this point, it was the nuts. In a middle position, I slow-played my hand to build as big a pot as possible. The player to my left bet and was raised by the cut-off position. Four of us called the raise to see the turn: the 6-hearts, putting four to a straight in sequence on the board.
It was a great card for me. Neither a flush nor a full house was likely. Furthermore, any players with a 5 or a 10 in the hole would have caught a straight lower than mine, and likely to call or bet all the way to the river.
There was still a chance – a remote chance – the river might pair the board, making a full house possible, or a third heart might fall, making a heart-flush possible. I was a huge favorite to take this pot! But the way my luck had been going lately, I couldn’t feel too confident.
On the river, I decided to check-raise to further build “my” (I hoped and prayed) pot. When the poker gods are bestowing Good Luck upon you, prayer is not needed. But I could not be sure of that, so I silently prayed to avoid a pair on the board or a third heart.
My check-raise brought a pile of chips onto the table – what with two other players also holding straights. The pot was immense – the biggest of the night. I held my breath as the dealer turned up the 4s on the river. Yes, I had the NUTS!
Struggling to remain calm, I watched while an early-position bet out on the river. I raised, only to be reraised by the cut-off. Then I capped the betting with a third raise. Showdown: One player had a straight 5 through 9; another had 6 through 10.
Yes, I had really Good Luck; my two worthy opponents had truly Bad. That monster pot put me ahead for the evening. Shortly after, I checked out and went home a winner. Boy, was I lucky. Good Luck.
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